Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This exploratory study examines the relationship between complementary medicine and quality of life among women with breast cancer. The objective of this study was to better understand why women choose to use these techniques, which techniques they were using, how effective they perceived them to be, and the overall impact on quality of life. There were twelve women that participated in a semi-structured interview process where they were asked a series of questions about their breast cancer experience. Participant's ages ranged from 32-65 years old, and annual household income varied from less than $30,000 to greater than $75,000. Eleven participants identified themselves as Caucasian and one participant was Indian. The diagnoses included Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC), and staging ranged from 0-IV. The findings of the research showed that the two most common reasons women gave for using complementary therapies was to control and reduce side effects brought on by conventional treatment and/or the disease itself, and the search for the holistic connection of the mind, body and spirit. Eighty-three percent of participants reported having a positive or improved quality of life since they began using complementary medicine. Those who have had a reoccurrence and/or have metastic breast cancer view their quality of life as the most optimal. The study concluded that social workers can help patients by both providing a safe and empathic environment for patients to express their thoughts and feelings and also serving as an educational resource regarding the use of complementary therapies.


iii, 56 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 46-49).